Tag Archives: Modi

Social media in India and its political impact

Here is a nice list of essays, articles and other interesting thoughts on social media and its impact on political upheavals and outcomes.

Many commenters and mainstream media journalists often condescendingly quip, “Elections are not won on social media, they are won on the streets.”

I totally agree. Social media is definitely not for short-term political gains. Right now it is too disorganized to manage concerted political campaigns. But it is definitely a medium that people can use to disseminate disparate information, and it is already being done. This is the sort of purpose right now social media solves in India. For instance, if there is a piece of misinformation being spread by vested interests, it can be immediately countered by social media.

Take for instance the controversy involving narendramodiplans.com. Someone created this spoof website that was basically a pirated version of a similar website created to lampoon Mitt Romney who contested presidential elections against Barack Obama. There was nothing wrong until the person who had hosted the website started crying that he was being harassed by Modi supporters and hence he had to take down the website. First the link was promoted by Twitter celebrities such as Shashi Tharoor:

And then suddenly the news came that the website had to be taken down due to the harassment meted out to the owner, or the webmaster, or whoever he or she was.

Go through this Storify compilation titled “Unfolding the conspiracy [narendramodiplans.com]” about how within a few hours the Tweeple were able to find that the entire affair was hatched up Congress supporters – a motley mix of journalists, politicians and its political trolls on Twitter.

Now, initially, even a person like me, who is a supporter of the BJP and Modi, was slightly pissed off the way the site had to be taken down but then eventually I discovered that the story of harassment was concocted just to show what sort of goons Modi supporters are.

To that extent social media is useful. It is also definitely useful for scoring brownie points.

But does it change political opinion? Can it affect election results? As far as in India, there is no concrete data that can prove that interactions on Facebook and Twitter can impact election results too. Yes, the opinion on the Internet, especially on the social media websites, is heavily tilted towards the BJP in general (mostly because they are heavily anti-Congress like myself) and Modi in particular (because people are desperately looking for a decisive leader who doesn’t bullshit), but how much this tilt percolates at the ground level it is hard to tell. Primarily there are 3 reasons:

  1. The penetration of the Internet and of social media is not as dense and deep as it is in many other countries despite mobile phones and computers
  2. It is mostly in English that interactions happen on social media websites and the vote bank that actually makes an impact isn’t very well-versed with the language
  3. In the country where people vote for parties based on who can give them more bottles of liquor, blankets, free meals and color TVs, (for that matter even naked girl dance parties) they’re not going to vote based on ideology and opinion

The 3rd point is perhaps the undoing of India. No matter how much people try and succeed on social media, unless people on the ground level seek political change that can actually change the destiny of the country, nothing concrete is going to happen.

I will give you a small example. My permanent address belongs to Sarita Vihar and compared to many parts of New Delhi, in terms of education and money, it’s a pretty well-off locality. But immediately after 16 December when the entire capital was simmering with anger and there was a huge anti-Congress wave all over the city, a Congress candidate won in the municipal elections for this constituency. We were shocked, really. So if this is the condition in a constituency that has educated and the so-called aware people, what can you say about towns and localities where people are less educated and more prone to voting for immediate gains?

So how should social media be used? It can be used as an underpinning for a massive information dissemination campaign. Instead of trying to change political opinions (most of these opinions are any way motivated and hence, cannot be changed) social media should be used to raise awareness and to coordinate political activities. One can get lots of timely information from social media and then use that information to spread awareness in towns and villages, among people actually walking and working on the roads.

The construction of Sardar Patel’s tallest statue is a good thing

I always complain that after independence Indians didn’t invest much in building monuments. I’m not talking about public sector industries and big dams, I’m talking about statues and buildings, and even bridges. You go to any moderately developed country and you will notice that they pay a lot of attention to aesthetics. So on bridges they have finely carved statues of mythological creatures, historical figures and intricate patterns. Even the streetlights are something to behold. They have buildings that glorify their traditions. The basic point is, when they construct something, the passion shows through. What do we have?

We couldn’t even build a new Rashtrapati Bhawan. Most of our ministers, proudly live in the Lutyen’s Delhi. The India Gate, Gateway of India, they were all built by the British. Just imagine, the British could build something that would later on turn into a national monument, just for a singular visit by their Imperial ruler, and we couldn’t even build a lousy monument to dedicate to our independence. Every 15th of August, the tricolor is unfurled from the ramparts of a fort built by the Muslim invaders. And don’t give the bullshit of not having enough money. India always has more than enough money when it comes to running scams and welfare schemes for garnering votes.

Most of our buildings and bridges represent the dull, communist era. They are uninspiring gray, or yellow cubicle structures built just for the purpose of use. Need a bridge? There you have it. Need a building? There, you have it. No attention is given to how to make the constructions beautiful.

Why does it matter? Awe-inspiring constructions give a sense of pride to the people of the city or the country. That is why when Mayawati built that monstrosity of the 685-crore Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal I was totally in favor of it. One reason was, most of our monuments are named after the Gandhi family (I’m not talking about Mahatma Gandhi) and the second was, we definitely require monuments and large-scale constructions that represent our pride. Of course what eventually Mayawati built was an eyesore and maybe it was primarily built to swindle a couple of 100 crores but the philosophy behind it totally makes sense.

Monuments play an important role for civilizations provided they are made for people and not to glorify particular families. That is why among the first things that Sardar Patel did after India got independence was get the Somnath temple in Gujarat restored (although the restoration didn’t complete during his lifetime).

Popular construction drives rekindle passion among the masses. Some may call it a communal agenda, but just the promise of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya could motivate the masses to turn the BJP into a national party.

The people of the country need something like that and this is why the proposed construction of Sardar Patel’s statue by Narendra Modi is a step in the right direction. Since Modi always exhorts the countrymen and women to think big, being true to his philosophy, he wants the statute to be the tallest in the world, and for that, he is going to collect iron from more than 6000 villages across India. It is a very wise move to bring people from all over India under a single goal. India needs many such statues, buildings, bridges, temples and why not, even forts.

The Congress and its sympathizers of course are squirming with unease. These morons cannot think beyond shortsighted politics. They complain why Narendra Modi is building the statue of a congressman. By saying this, these stupid fellows are publicly accepting that none of their leaders can have a pan India appeal.

Why Modi supporters are so vitriolic

very-angry

People often complain that most of the Modi supporters on the Internet (including social media websites like Twitter and Facebook) are quite uncouth, insulting and simply abusive. Although I am myself a Modi supporter, I’m not going to disagree. I’m not writing this to make excuses and to validate my political inclination, I’m just doing some literary thinking, as I myself have often become, mistakenly, target of this vitriol.

The right wingers, as they are called (Sagarika Ghosh termed them “Internet Hindus”) on the Internet are an unorganized, voluntary group. Contrary to what many Congress supporters claim, there is no particular orchestration when it comes to spreading information and forming opinions – everything happens randomly.

There are a few select individuals who seem to be hired by either the BJP or the media wing of Modi, but I’m pretty sure that more than 99% of the vocal BJP/Modi supporters are voluntary. Some are fed up with the Congress, some feel bad about the way India has turned up, some abhor the sycophantic and dynastic politics the Congress culture promotes and some might also be the so-called Islamophobes and right wing fundamentalists, but the moot point is, nobody pays them and they don’t gain anything except for ideological satisfaction when they articulate their ideas in support of the BJP/Modi.

The supporters of the Congress (read anti-BJP/anti-Modi) are mostly shady elements, scholars, intellectuals and journalists who live off the government grants and doles, and communal as well as casteist elements who want to keep the society divided so that India doesn’t truly become a united country. When they support the Congress, they have vested interests (because, who would support Congress without a vested interest?). Since they have vested interests, they come up with all sorts of lies and deceits to support their propaganda. They can be vicious. They use filthiest pejoratives. They have access to print and electronic media and they constantly spew venom in order to perpetuate their cause. It is a vicious nexus and herein lies the reason for vitriol among BJP/Modi supporters.

Since no professionals are involved, people don’t mince words when they express themselves and it also means that sometimes they use language that they shouldn’t use. They are so fed up with lies that they have become sore. Sometimes, mistakenly, they also resort to similar lies, which of course harms their own cause.

Since conventional politicians and intelligentsia have no control over how the information flows on the Internet, people with alternative views have a free run. They cannot be stopped and they say whatever they want to say. Just as it happens in the real world, when there is unmitigated freedom, some elements misuse it, and this happens when in the name of supporting the BJP/Modi people cross limits.

Many say that when BJP/Modi supporters heap abuses upon Congress supporters they are either retaliating or they do it out of frustration. On the other hand when Congress supporters heap abuses upon BJP/Modi supporters they do it out of malice and cunningness. My personal experience has shown that this might be true.

If you observe the patterns of both BJP/Modi supporters on one hand and Congress sympathizers on the other, you will notice that Congress sympathizers will keep mum whenever some misdeed of the congressman comes to surface, but they will retweet even the smallest of news that one way or another castigates the BJP and its supporters (even if it is a blatant lie). BJP/Modi supporters don’t do this. In that regard they are quite impartial.